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  • Accidental Innuendo:
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • In the beginning section at Destiny Islands, Riku and Sora's competitive relationship comes across differently depending on whether the player is superior, equal, or inferior to Riku.
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    • After the final Hercules Cup seed against Hercules himself, he compliments Sora for winning in spite of Hercules not holding back during his battle. However, it's possible that Hercules was fibbing and actually rigged his battle with "god-like aura disabling barrels" to give the kid a chance to win and motivate him to become stronger.
  • Annoying Video-Game Helper:
    • Donald Duck during the Timed Missions in Olympus Coliseum, if he casts Stop on the last enemy. Stopped enemies don't lose HP until the effect wears off, at which point they take damage equivalent to all the hits you landed on them while they were stopped. Mildly annoying during normal battles, but potentially game-ending when you have a time limit and the final blow has been delayed by several seconds.
    • Goofy's sometimes uses his standard attack on an enemy you're currently targetting, where he will charge and pushing them out of your way while you're in the middle of an attack and cause you to miss.
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    • Tarzan during the Jungle Slider mini-game, since he's right behind you and blocks your view with his body and spear, making it more difficult to find and collect the fruits and go towards an alternate course without missing a single one.
  • Anticlimax Boss:
    • Jafar is widely agreed to be one of the easiest Disney bosses in the game. The fight against his Genie form is especially anticlimactic, since despite being granted "phenomenal cosmic powers" by his transformation into an "all-powerful Genie", the only attack he'll use for most of the fight is slowly hurling easily-dodged balls of lava at Sora.
    • Rock Titan is another notable example. He's the final opponent of the very challenging Hades Cup, which you can only access late in the game. Like in the movie he's also gargantuan, probably one of the physically largest enemies in the game barring the final boss. However, while his attacks deal a lot of damage, he moves very slowly and his attacks are quite easy to avoid. As a result, he's generally considered to be one of the easiest bosses in the game, sometimes even the easiest.
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    • After the slew of tough encounters in Hollow Bastion against Dragon-Maleficent and Ansem-Riku, the last boss of the level, Behemoth, is most definitely a pushover. It is incredibly slow, has very little means of actually attacking you beyond an easily-telegraphed-and-dodged homing energy sphere shot, keels over after being hit a few times so you can pummel it some more (this is actually a feint, as it attacks with powerful undodgeable lighting afterwards, but its range is very short and it gives you plenty of time to roll away before the attack comes out) and has a crippling weakness to Gravity magic.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • After reaching the end of the game, there isn't really much to do aside from battling Phantom, completing the Hades Cup, and synthesizing for items. When the game reached overseas: Sephiroth, Ice Titan, and Kurt Zisa were all added as optional bosses, and eventually the Final Mix would add the Unknown as another secret boss.
    • The Final Mix fills in some of the gaps of what happened with Riku after Destiny Islands fell to darkness and what happened after Ansem cast him aside in Hollow Bastion.
    • In the original game, there's a Red Trinity in Oogie's Manor that will disappear permanently if the player does not find it before defeating Oogie Boogie, which the Final Mix fixes by moving the Trinity to a different location.
    • When the game was rereleased in the HD 1.5 ReMIX, some improvements were made:
      • In the original game the camera controls were limited, only allowing the player to turn left and right with the R1 and L1 buttons resectively. The remaster allows the player to freely maneuver the camera with the right-analog stick.
      • A common criticism from the original game was the inability to skip cutscenes, which could become tiresome when receiving a game over from a difficult boss or simply replaying through the game over again. The remaster fortunately adds in a feature to skip in every cutscene, save for the game's intro, a few cutscenes, and the epilogue.
      • In Re: Chain of Memories, the developers decided to create a new character model for Sora with facial features that resembled his appearance in Kingdom Hearts II, having lighter hair and a softer face. Which made Sora's character design in this game look largely inconsistent as a result, fortunately he was given the updated character model when the game was remastered.
  • Best Level Ever: There just hasn't been a world in this series yet that has been able to top this game's visit to Hollow Bastion in awesomeness. Aside from, perhaps, the sheer unnerving beauty (and frequent terror) of End of the World, the game's final world.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • In Deep Jungle, one of the bosses is... a huge purple eggplant-looking fruit. The game simply feeds you the message "the fruit looks suspicious", then you're required to destroy it or Heartless will continue to spawn. The best explanation the game offers is Clayton uses it to trap Jane and Terk, but even then, the connection is obtuse/tenuous at best.
    • The battle with Chernabog is essentially this, since none of the characters comment on him, and he doesn't even get an entry in Jiminy's Journal, but as he's a highly popular character, no one is complaining too much.
  • Broken Base:
    • The Atlantica level is pretty divisive - since it's the only world that requires a completely different gameplay system to accommodate the underwater setting (can't summon or use special attacks). The split increased since the world was changed for Kingdom Hearts II into an optional musical game - with some hating it even more, preferring the change or being indifferent to it.
    • 100 Acre Wood can be seen as equally divisive, something that would carry over into the sequels. Some fans praise the world for being a nice Breather Episode that temporarily changes the games format in favor of some cute and lighthearted mini-games. Meanwhile, its detractors dislike the world for having dull and often tedious mini-games that are mandatory to unlock specific items and abilities in the game, and hate the innocent storyline that largely differs from the rest of the game.
    • The live orchestrated music in 1.5 ReMIX has divided fans. Some love it and find it more exuberant and engaging than the original MIDI tracks, while others hate the new music and prefer the original tracks.
  • Character Rerailment: Pop culture, the Disney Princess franchise and arguably The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea exaggerated Ariel's characterization into 'stupid Damsel in Distress who does nothing but sing or make bad decisions'. This brought Ariel back to the roots of her original film and spin-off series; an adventurous Action Girl who's also an All-Loving Heroine.
  • Difficulty Spike: Once you complete the fourth boss fight in Hollow Bastion, enemies everywhere, including bosses, get a strength boost thanks to their access to the Final Keyhole.
  • Demonic Spiders: Sniperwild, cousin to the Bouncywild (for all intents and purposes). In order to get it's synthesis drop, the Sniperwild must be defeated while remaining completely unseen and this continues until either all five cycles have been defeated or Sora has been spotted. And when Sora gets spotted, the Sniperwilds will stop dropping items experience and money, instead opting to barrage the party with unblockable shots alongside the reinforcements called it.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Riku gets this treatment a lot. Even though the game made it clear that Riku delving into darkness, even if to save Kairi, was not a good thing, his fans refuse to acknowledge his faults. Instead, they act if he was perfectly heroic and not in control of any negative actions, and that Sora is at fault for not helping him, or Kairi for not properly appreciating him and what he did for her, or point to Ansem possessing his body despite Riku kidnapping Jasmine and Pinocchio out of his own free will and didn't even have his body controlled until after his first battle in Hollow Bastion.
  • Ending Fatigue: The final battle is incredibly long, especially in this game where every individual boss battle ("boss" here can include any mandatory battle) gets this annoying twisty slowdown effect once you win. It consists of Ansem, a Darkside, Ansem again (this time without Donald or Goofy), Ansem on the World of Chaos, a horde of Shadows, the World of Chaos' main artillery tentacles, a horde of Darkballs, the World of Chaos' face, a horde of Invisibles and, finally, Ansem on the World of Chaos again in this very order.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Why Chernabog was included. This also applies to his reception in the series — he's regarded as one of the candidates for the series's example Best Boss Ever, at least thematically. When a Fantasia world was announced in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, people had hoped he'd make an appearance. They were not disappointed.
    • Out of the additional party members, Beast and Peter Pan seem to be the most popular, largely due to the fact that they're the only two who are actually helpful in battle. Ariel is seen as useful too, but her world is pretty divisive among the fans.
    • Halloween Town also developed a strong fandom. In fact, according to BradyGames' strategy guide for Kingdom Hearts II, the reason why it was included in the subsequent games was because of its overwhelming fanbase. It even got some the merchandise based on that single world. Ironically, it was the only worldnote  to not appear in the manga, and was even excluded from the novel.
  • Epileptic Trees: The Another Side, Another Story secret ending from the Final Mix version. Fans analyzed this video to death, getting crazy theories out of practically every single frame and setting internet forums on fire. The new Ansem Reports were a big source of Fan Wank as well. Although all theories were Jossed, fans never stopped to come up with theories about where the series would go in the next installment.
  • Evil Is Cool: Maleficent was already an example in her film, but ascends to new heights as the leader of the Disney Villains, and turning into her dragon form for a second boss fight.
  • First Installment Wins: The series goes on and quality is always debated, but the debut installment seems to be destined to be the one everyone will remember the most due to the sheer hype and reaction surrounding the concept and the one with the highest sales, although Kingdom Hearts II is usually the most discussed and praised with the fandom. It's also fondly remembered for having a comparatively simple (read: understandable) story, whereas later games are seen as having gone off the rails into a nigh-incomprehensible Kudzu Plot where playing every game and spinoff is essential to have the slightest idea what's going on.
  • Fountain of Memes: Almost everything that comes out of Ansem's mouth is pure gold (or black, because "DARKNESS!"). They just haven't been able to recapture Billy Zane's magic ever since.
  • Game-Breaker: On the series' page, here.
  • Goddamned Bats:
    • Invisibles and Angel Stars, the two new enemy types in End of the World, are each this in their own right. Angel Stars can hit Sora from across the room, can fly out of reach, and can take a defensive stance that blocks all attacks, while Invisibles are very fast sword-wielders that can enter an invincible state where they surround Sora with a ring of fire requiring a carefully-timed Dodge Roll to avoid. Both have tons of HP and require advanced magic like Gravity and Stop to defeat painlessly.
    • Final Mix introduces a large number of Puzzle Boss Heartless that drop rare synthesis materials when slain correctly. Of these, the most dangerous is the Sniperwild, a purple version of Bouncywild that must be slain without being seen by it to drop its Power Stone. Failure to do this causes an infinite number of Sniperwilds, who will no longer drop their items, to begin spawning and attacking with unavoidable slingshot bullets until you escape the area or die.
    • Fat Bandits, if you're a lower level, and especially in the Coliseum tournaments. The Stop spells help, but only so much.
    • Black Fungi, hostile versions of the White Mushroom, emit poisonous clouds which continuously drain your health, and they can turn to stone and make themselves invincible for a period of time. Fortunately, if you defeat them, they give out a large sum of EXP, making them useful for leveling up when you first visit Agrabah (though they are a rare encounter).
  • Goddamned Boss: Yuffie. She's constantly backing away from you, she throws homing shurikens, she spams healing spells, and she never shuts up. When you face her and Leon in the Coliseum, you'll want to take her out first.
  • Good Bad Bugs: If you use a Summon just after doing a combo finisher while the EXP Zero ability is on, the damage of the finisher will be dealt for every hit done by the Summon. This can be used to quickly shred through some late-game bosses, which helps immensely in Speedruns.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • At the endgame, Ansem gives a speech about how Riku, in his desire to leave the islands, ended up causing grave consequences for both himself and his homeland. However, in light of Birth by Sleep and 3D setting up Young Master Xehanort as Riku's Evil Counterpart (... maybe), right down to hailing from the Destiny Islands and having the same motivation to escape that prison, as well as revealing that Ansem (or rather, Xehanort's Heartless) had a direct hand in Young Xehanort's Start of Darkness, it wouldn't be out of character for this line to also be making a mockery of Xehanort's younger incarnation.
      Ansem: Look at this tiny place. To the heart seeking freedom, this island is a prison, surrounded by water. And so, this boy sought to escape his prison, and he opened his heart to darkness.
    • As noted on the Dramatic Irony page, Ansem's manipulation of Riku becomes even worse when you remember that Terra—the man tragically fated to become Xehanort (and this game's "Ansem" by extension)—not only made Riku his successor, but promises to someday show him the worlds that exist outside of the Destiny Islands.
    • In Atlantica, King Triton exiles Sora because he claims that "the key bearer shatters peace and brings ruin". He must've heard about the Keyblade War.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In Halloween Town, when Oogie Boogie says "You want it?" in the cutscene before the actual battle, a certain shopkeeper can come to mind.
    • Anyone who's seen James and the Giant Peach would recall the undead pirate scene with Jack Skellington and Donald Duck. Well, they can both fight alongside each other in this game while in Halloween Town (though Donald is a Mummy instead). The phantom rhinoceros in the film (that killed James' parents) also resembles the Behemoth.
    • The bonus boss fight with the Unknown/Xemnas. The way he fights is by using two red blades, throwing out lightning, quick flashes of movement, an incredible amount of brute strength, and lots of acrobatics. Flash forward to 2013, and Darth Sidious fights the exact same way against Darth Maul and Savage Oppress in The Clone Wars. Maybe now that Disney owns Star Wars, we could see Xemnas face off with Sidious?
    • One of Bonus Boss Kurt Zisa's attacks is named Gravity Falls.
    • One group of Heartless in the Hades Cup, at the 25th seed and just before the rematch with the Opposite Armor, is called "Avengers." Years later, Disney acquired Marvel Comics and now owns The Avengers.
    • Maleficent tells Riku that "he's like a son to her," and tries to groom him into aiding her to conquer the universe, though Riku ultimately turns against her. A different continuity shows that Maleficent has a daughter named Mal, who also turns against her following a foiled attempt to steal the Fairy Godmother's wand.
      • Also, the end scene of the first visit to Olympus Coliseum is when Hades tells Maleficent to get lost. The third film reveals that Hades is Mal's father.
    • Sora replaces Christopher Robin in the Winnie the Pooh world, helping Pooh find all of his missing friends. Flash forward to 2018, and this is the exact plot at the start of Christopher Robin, with the titular character reclaiming his territory!
    • In this commercial and other variants, we have Mark Hamill as the announcer... less than a decade before he gets to join the cast as Master Eraqus. Even better, he's using a voice similar to his future role.
  • Inferred Holocaust:
    • The Heartless invasion. Although this fact is pretty heavily glossed over and not really discussed much, it is stated at least once that it has completely destroyed several entire worlds by the time the game starts, presumably killing hundreds of billions of people. The few survivors in Traverse Town are, for all intents and purposes, interdimensional refugees, condemned to spend the rest of their existence well and truly homeless, huddling together and trying to preserve what remains of their culture and civilization. It's basically an After the End scenario on a hilariously massive scale.
    • Birth by Sleep Final Mix reveals that worlds consumed by darkness aren't necessarily destroyed... but are now stuck in a bleak, nightmarish dimension. A Fate Worse than Death, perhaps?
    • All of the lost worlds are restored via a Reset Button, pushed by none other than Sora; additionally, the Summon Gems are stated to contain spirits that survived the destruction of their world. Two of them appear in Kingdom Hearts II.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • The existence of Mickey Mouse in this game in general. Considering his status as one of the central characters in all the later installments, it's hard to believe that his appearance at the end of this game was a big deal back in 2002. Pre-release, he did not appear in any of the promotional material, is completely elusive for the entire duration of the game, and is prominently referred to as "The King" or "Your Majesty" most of the time, which made his identity even more ambiguous. These days, most people are fully aware that Mickey appears in the game, and its sequels, which do nothing to keep his existence a secert.
    • Sora having Kairi's heart inside of him and the revelation of her being a Princess of Heart. The former has become even more difficult to avoid for newcomers due to the Memetic Mutation that the scene suffers from because of the Narm of Sora realizing that Kairi's "inside" him.
    • Ansem, the researcher who mysteriously disappeared while studying the Heartless is actually the true main antagonist (not Maleficent) that has been controlling them the entire game to open the door to Kingdom Hearts. And that's not even acknowledging how complex his character would become in the later games.
    • The hooded boy that dual wields Keyblades in Another side, Another story being Roxas.
    • The secret boss in Hollow Bastion against the Unknown being Xemnas, even trying to search this boss online will casually give you results on who his true identity is.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Clayton, after being caught trying to shoot Terk, swore genocide against the gorillas, causing the Heartless to come. By the climax of Deep Jungle's arc, he's succumbed to The Power of Hate, and Tarzan claims "Not Clayton. *&&X% (heart). Not Clayton," signing Clayton's death warrant.
    • Jafar uses his first wish from Genie to reveal the Keyhole for Agrabah, which puts it at risk of the Heartless destroying it. While Riku had no idea that his actions resulted in the death of his world, Jafar outright knows that his wish amounts to genocide, and does an evil laugh right afterwards.
  • Most Wonderful Sound:
    • The absolutely hilarious sound effects that play when Clayton is smacked.
    • "Do de do de do!" when you solve a puzzle.
    • The satisfying "clunk" from when you lock a world's Keyhole.
    • Some of the Heartless make cute noises when you hit them. Bouncywilds actually make the same noise as Cactuars.
    • The Disney voices, both the returning and the spot-on impressions.
    • Beast saying "Step aside" while doing his charge attack. You'll love the signal when he practically one-shots a bunch of Heartless.
  • Narm:
    • There are a few instances where a character's lips are moving with their dialogue just fine while their teeth and/or tongue are visibly flipping out within the confines of their mouth.
    • The Atlantica level attempts to recreate the drama of Ariel making the deal with Ursula from the original film by following the same beat of a fight between Triton and Ariel that ends with the latter in tears. The film's scene was a terrifying Tear Jerker, where Triton went and destroyed all of Ariel's human objects — leaving her traumatized and therefore prone to making rash decisions. Here, he just destroys the thing that'll reveal the keyhole, making Ariel's "how could you" seem extremely Wangsty.
    • Some of Alice's dialogue in the English translation sounds far too contemporary for a character who spoke in a very prim and proper Victorian way in her original film. Thus it sounds very odd to hear Kathryn Beaumont (who otherwise does a good job at matching her performance from the original) saying things like "that is so unfair" or "so mean".
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Sephiroth only appears as the opponent of the coliseum’s Platinum Match, but he makes one hell of an impression due to being a super boss and a frightening introduction to the character for players not familiar with his source material.
    • Chernabog comes right the hell out of nowhere as the penultimate boss of the game, but as he’s Disney’s king of Nightmare Fuel, has “Night on Bald Mountain” as his theme, and is a formidable boss in the endgame, he’s easily one of the most memorable bosses of the game.
    • Mickey's appearance at the very end of the story. Throughout the game, it's obvious that he's the king that everyone's referring to and his presence seems to be just out of reach. But when he appears, not only does he one-shot several of the most powerful kind of Heartless you can encounter in the game, but he also has a major role in saving the day!
    • Xemnas’s Early-Bird Cameo due to being such a damn enigma, giving no clues as to what he’s talking about and still giving you perhaps the hardest fight of the game. His appearance caused endless speculation and hype for Japanese players who encountered him after already beating the original edition of the game, deftly upping suspense for the future of the series. He also makes a significant impression even on players who have played later games and actually do know what he’s talking about.
  • Paranoia Fuel:
    • Okay, who else got ambushed by Heartless at the Rabbit Hole in Wonderland? You may suspect it when you notice that the save point is the same temporary version in the Rose Garden where you fight the Queen of Hearts...
    • But the Heartless attack on Destiny Islands is just cruel (at least in the PS2 version). If you dillydally too long in the beachside shack? THE SAVE POINT DISAPPEARS AND THE HEARTLESS ATTACK!!
    • In general, the constant attacks by Heartless acclimate you to battle, to the point that when you enter a non-save point area and there aren't any Heartless attacking you, it's a real cause for alarm. In Final Mix, this eerie calm usually heralds the arrival of a new, rare type of Heartless.
  • Polished Port: In contrast to the PS4 port, the Xbox One version benefits from being released 3 years after it, allowing for it to be the most up to date version without any noticeable problems. It also contains Theater Mode as a part off its code instead of it being DLC (which, unfortunately, made 1.5 + 2.5 too big to fit on Blu-Ray discs due to now being over 50GB) and allows for skipping of the opening cutscenes that the PS4, PS3 and PS2 versions lacked.
  • Popularity Polynomial: This game helped bring Maleficent's popularity into real prominence, since Sleeping Beauty was in the process of being Vindicated by History. Notably in the Fantasmic Disneyland show, Maleficent still played second fiddle to the Queen from Snow White. It's thanks to Kingdom Hearts portraying her as the leader of the Disney villains that she saw a resurgance in popularity as one of the most beloved villains in the canon - leading to the Maleficent in The New '10s.
  • Porting Disaster: The PS4 port included in HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX had a bevy of issues due to its 60fps conversion not being properly accounted for, causing noticeable problems with certain aspects of the gameplay (physics, scripted events, etc.) that were hard-coded to the original PS2 version's 30fps. The most noticeable side effect of this was certain boss battles (Sephiroth, most notably) becoming significantly harder than they should be. Thankfully, the vast majority of these problems were fixed after various patches, making it now lean much much more toward being a Polished Port.
  • Relationship Writing Fumble: At some points in Atlantica, it can look as though the developers were going for some Ship Tease between Sora and Ariel; their first scene together has Ariel swimming around him in a way that looks like she's checking him out. Ariel is also the only one of the Disney characters to worry about never seeing Sora again, and they share a couple more intimate scenes together. Kingdom Hearts II rather pointedly has Sora as a Shipper on Deck for Ariel and Eric when the latter shows up.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • The Gummi Ship segments are often cited as long, slow, too frequent, and unengaging. And until you obtain the Warp Gummi, you must play them every time you travel to another world, including previous ones. Want to go back from Deep Jungle to Traverse Town so you can buy some more potions? Hope you're ready to play two Gummi Ship segments in a row to get there, and then replay them in reverse to return to Deep Jungle.
    • Synthesis in Kingdom Hearts was slightly time consuming but the rewards always made up for it. Final Mix has more items that are just as worth it (Crystal Crown), but with the addition of new enemies, have made synthesis twice the pain in the ass. Special mention goes out to finding Power Stones and Serenity Powers.
    • The unskippable cutscenes. This is particularly unbearable for the battle against Ansem-Riku. The cutscene before the fight clocks in at a whopping two-and-a-half minutes. That means every time you die, you have to wait through that entire two-and-a-half minute cutscene before you can try again. The fight with Clayton is also infamous for its unskippable cutscene. Thankfully, the cutscenes were made skippable in the re-releases that followed.
    • Trinity Marks are special places where you can obtain new items or open up pathways. The problem is, you can only activate them with Donald and Goofy, which makes the world-specific party members significantly less appealing, since using them means you'll have to go though the world a second time later with Donald and Goofy to find the marks.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: For a long time, Kingdom Hearts was generally agreed to be the best game in the series for its story, exploration and postgame, elements that were done worse or downplayed in later games like the initial release of Kingdom Hearts II. However, after the worldwide release of KHII Final Mix via 2.5 ReMIX, many international players were able to access the genuinely challenging Critical Mode and the plethora of postgame goodies that were only available to Japan for a long time, with the former requiring fans to pick apart the game's combat system to properly deal with the Bonus Bosses. In doing so, KHII became more preferred over the original as time went on, with fans paying more attention to the action and combat system that made the KH engine feel slow and unengaging in comparison, and downright weird compared to later games. While KH is still considered one of the best games in the series and its story is considered superior, a vast majority of fans consider KHII to be the Even Better Sequel.
  • Signature Scene: Several.
    • Riku extending his hand to Sora in the intro, and then Sora looking up while in the Awakening at the end of the intro.
    • Sora and Kairi sharing a moment on the dock right before the storm hits.
    • Sora meeting Donald and Goofy.
    • The first time Sora flies in Neverland, and then whenever you visit Big Ben. It's a truly beautiful location, helped by the fact you get to fly freely around it.
    • "I don't need a weapon, my friends are my power!"
    • Sora's sacrifice.
    • Mickey's appearance.
    • For those who had difficulty with some bosses, the proceeding cutscene before some bosses was this:
    • "I know now, without a doubt, Kingdom Hearts... is light!" The door opening and light shining on Ansem is considered so iconic it was used in opening movies in later games.
  • Special Effect Failure: A few spots in the 1.5 ReMIX version, particularly in Gummi Ship paths, show that the game wasn't developed with widescreen in mind and can spawn or cull objects a bit too close to the edges of the screen. The issue is less noticeable in the main game, although a few instances still crop up, such as in the Phantom bonus boss's introductory cutscene.
  • That One Achievement: The Gummi Ship Collector trophy in the 1.5 version, which involves getting every Gummi Ship blueprint in the game. For the majority of obtaining the blueprints, this means fulfilling some truly insane mission requirements traveling between worlds with the Gummi Ship, like doing Atlantica's third mission (do not collect items, and get a high score of 260 points or more; it's a Luck-Based Mission if Monstro is first encountered on this route), in a minigame widely considered a Scrappy Mechanic prior to its revamp in Kingdom Hearts II. The 1.5 + 2.5 PS4 version made it a bit easier by making it so you "only" need 30 blueprints instead of all of them, but it's still a pain.
  • That One Attack: SUBMIT! This is the sound of Ansem's Guardian possessing and then preventing you from doing anything properly during the final boss, all while Ansem yells at you to "'open your heart" and receive a barrier attack to the face.
  • That One Boss:
    • The first Ursula battle. You have to attack the cauldron with magic until it explodes and stuns Ursula and her minions Flotsam and Jetsam. The problem is that the game's only hint to this is an easily missable line of dialogue from Triton, which even then is so incredibly vague that the player will likely still not understand what they need to do. Plus, not only will Flotsam and Jetsam continuously attack you, but if Ursula is attacked before being stunned, she will always automatically do a spin attack across her arena, not only preventing you from getting a good hit in, but also having to avoid getting killed by her.
    • The second Ursula battle is slightly easier, but still pretty difficult. She is now giant-sized and has to be hit up-close. Unfortunately, you also have to deal with lightning strikes that always appear wherever you go, so staying still will end up dooming you and doing attacks up close to her face makes it easier for you to get hit by the lightning.
    • Maleficent-Dragon. While Maleficent's first fight was considered to be fair, her second fight is much more challenging. Most of her attacks are very hard to time and hit very hard. You also have to get close to her head, as that is her only weak point, but the camera makes it very difficult to get a good angle on her and where her attacks come in.
    • Ansem-Riku, perhaps the most infamous of the bosses. His attacks come at a very fast direction, when he powers up, he is able to shoot a projectile, while still being able to attack normally, and his Dark Aura is incredibly difficult to avoid as he strikes the entire arena with not just teleporting, but also finishing off with a huge lightning strike. The battle has also been made infamous in the original by the fact that without the cutscene skip later versions added, you have to watch the preceding cutscene from the very beginning every time you lose.
  • That One Level:
    • Atlantica. The world has extremely awkward swimming controls that complicate movement and combat, navigation can be confusing due to the layout, and there are two difficult boss fights against Ursula.
    • Every single Gummi sequence, as they're slow-paced and boring. This is one thing almost everyone agrees was improved in Kingdom Hearts II.
    • Monstro is a prime example of terrible level design, mostly being a confusing maze of passageways that look nearly exactly the same.
    • Neverland as well for being another maze world, with bland level design and strange camera placement. The only area that receives any praise is the Clock Tower.
    • Deep Jungle, mostly due to the constant backtracking you have to do to advance the plot.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Jasmine proved herself to be a capable Action Girl in the Aladdin TV series, and was pretty proactive in the first film too. Here she's turned into a Damsel in Distress just to prop up the Disney Villains (Jafar captures her easily and we hear her cries for help throughout the Pot Centipede boss battle, and then in the Cave of Wonders while Sora and the others are facing Genie Jafar, Riku captures her off screen.)
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: One of the game's main appeals was being able to visit several worlds from Disney movies. However, certain worlds can give the impression that the developers weren't exactly sure how to best convey the feel of the original films. Disney's Alice in Wonderland takes place in a boundless labyrinthine Wonderland. Kingdom Hearts attempts to recreate that same whimsical feeling, but the result ends up feeling claustrophobic and lackluster. Similarly, Hercules is well known for having a very distinct style and personality that wasn't properly expressed in the Olympus Colosseum world. To its credit, the series made an Author's Saving Throw for the latter by incorporating other aspects of the source material in later games (notably the Underworld in Kingdom Hearts II), though it took until III for Olympus itself to actually be portrayed in-game.
  • Tough Act to Follow: General consensus is Billy Zane did the voice of Ansem so well, Richard Epcar has yet to make up for it in following games. A rare example where a Celebrity Voice Actor's work is deemed superior to that of a professional's.
  • Unexpected Character:
    • Chernabog popping up as a boss in the End of the World was pretty unexpected, especially since he has no connection to another of the other worlds or characters (except to Mickey in a roundabout way, through their shared appearance in Fantasia, which was once considered as a world; the brooms from that movie also appear).
    • At the time of the game's release, pretty much anyone from The Nightmare Before Christmas was unexpected, while the movie was considered Disney due to it being released through Touchstone Pictures, it was never regarded as a classic like the other worlds in this game or even in the Disney Animated Canon.
    • Beast's appearance as a party member in Hollow Bastion is meant as a surprise, since Hollow Bastion is a series-original world hyped up as Maleficent's stronghold and it has nothing to do with Beauty and the Beast. Beast's actual world only first appears in II.
    • The Final Fantasy characters were this for people who came in blind when the game was new. The advertisements didn't show them, so the uninitiated were expecting a Disney game with original characters from Square.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Donald Duck comes off in this game as a complete Jerkass for mental child abuse towards Sora. He tells the boy to join them and lies that he'll help find his friends. Then the trio arrive at Deep Jungle, and Donald shows off his true colors by telling Sora and Goofy that they are not landing (and let the Heartless consume it), even as Sora pleads to let them land so that he could check for his friends. After landing, Sora is separated from them; Goofy shows concern, but Donald huffs that they don't need Sora, the only person who can save the universe! Later, Donald coldly denies Riku a spot in their party. He does not give any reason; he just says "forget it," indirectly causing Riku's Start of Darkness. Yes, Donald does get his priorities straight as the game advances on, but the events of Deep Jungle and the reunion with Riku are major Kick the Dog moments from him reminiscent of Ratchet's treatment towards Clank in the first game of their franchise.
  • The Woobie: Kairi, who lost her home, family and friends twice (first with Hollow Bastion, and then with Destiny Islands). And then there's the ending of the game. Just watch it and try not to feel for the girl.
  • What an Idiot!: Jafar turning himself into a genie. In his parent movie, he did it because Aladdin tricked him into thinking being a genie would make him more powerful, but here, he wishes for it for no reason apart from "It happened in the movie."
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Casting Lance Bass as Sephiroth raised more than a few eyebrows from the Final Fantasy part of the fandom. It's especially jarring since you only hear Sephiroth speak through battle grunts and his voice is so echo-y that you could barely understand him. It begs the question why they even bothered getting a Celebrity Voice Actor.

The manga

  • Complete Monster: This incarnation of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, the Heartless form of Xehanort, is even more malicious than the original. Masterminding the Heartless' invasion of several worlds and Maleficent's plan to capture the Seven Princesses of Heart in order to open the Final Keyhole, Ansem Mind Rapes Riku so that he can possess his body. He stabs Maleficent with a Keyblade in order to destroy her once she's no longer of use to him, and then deceives Sora into using that same Keyblade to make what would ultimately be a Senseless Sacrifice, turning Sora into a Heartless and unsealing the Final Keyhole. When Riku's heart fights back from within to stop him from attempting to kill Kairi, Ansem uses his power to banish Riku's heart into the Dark Realm. Ultimately planning to open the Door of Darkness to let darkness consume all existence, Ansem shows nothing but glee towards his destructive ambitions. Returning after defeat as a specter within Riku's heart, Ansem attempts to play the boy's own emotions against him in order to take control of the boy's body once more, vicious to the end. Showcasing no redeeming features and played dead seriously against the manga's usually lighthearted and silly tone, Xehanort's Heartless would do whatever it took to gain ultimate knowledge and power, and to sate his undying hunger for darkness.

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